C. dowiana var. aurea was discovered by Wallis in 1868 near Frontino (150 km NW of Medellin) in the state of Antioquia. It was then separated as a different species because its shape, color and aroma are quite different form the Costa Rican dowiana.

C. dowiana from Central America has smaller flowers than C. dowiana. In addition the petals and sepals of C. dowiana are narrower and have a cuppery color. The blooming season in Costa Rica is generally over by Easter. When looking at both species, aurea has more attractive presentation and has a much better contrast between the lip and the petals.

This Cattleya is found in three different areas of Colombia, All areas are in the western part of the country in the states of Risaralda, Chocó and Antioquia. The populations are very different depending upon their origin both in their chromatic aspect and in their growth requirements.

Zone 1: Valleys of Atrato River to the upper part of the San Juan River in the state of Risaralda.
This variety is called chrysotoxa. It is found where moist winds ascending from the Pacific and the Chocó´s rainforest create a very humid environment as they cool down at higher elevations. It grows in a small region at an elevation of 750 meters above sea level between Pueblo Rico and Santa Cecilia in the State of Risaralda.

The region is near the river upper area of the San Juan River. This variety is always found where there is air movement and is also very exposed to sun light. These plants are very susceptible to rotting and fungal infections. The color of the flower is a bright yellow. The lip is very well difened and has clearly marked veins on top of a crimson red background color. Lastly, the petals have generally a rib that makes them look like horns when the flower is seen from the front. This last characteristic is also true for the other varieties but is not as strong.

Plants without this rib are rare and highly desirable. This trait is probably dominant since it is present in F1 generations (C. hardyana)

Zone 2. Northwest of antioquia towards the valleys of the Sinú river.
This variety is called dureda or aurea. This is a splendid variety that requires dryer conditions for growth, although ventilation is also required for adequate development.

Plants and flowers are generally larger, or have the potential to be larger than the other two populations. The plants of this variety have abundant roots, the color of the flower varies from a greenish yellow all the way to a bright yellow.

The flower presents many color combinations on the lip; but, most of the times the veins are fused to form two large eyes protruding towards the tip of the lip. In a few cases, varieties are found where the eyes of the lip have almost completely fused covering all the lip surface and leaving only a pink rim around the tip of. This variety is called "rosea" This variety is almost completely extinct in the wild.

The region where this plant is originally found has been used for pastures; therefore, destroying its natural habitat. Furthermore, this Cattleya has been collected for years due to its very desirable characteristics for breeding. The populations found in higher elevations have the same habitat as C. warcsewiczii and very seldomly C. hardyana is found. It is therefore the only population that may breed with C. warcsewiczii to produce C. hardyana.

Zone 3. Baudó zone.
This is the least known of all varieties and grows in a small area in the Cordillera del Baudó (a small mountain range near the pacific ocean). This variety was only discovered about 10 years ago when a road to the pacific was being built. There are only about 5 plants that are known from this region. Luckily for the plants, the road construction has been abandoned and I guess that we will not see many of them in the near future.

The petals are whiter than the other varieties and narrower as well. The lip is also lighter in color and shows veins like the chrysotoxa variety, making the background color be more evident. It is the variety that ressembles the most to C. dowiana Cattleya aurea grows always near rivers and water currents.

It grows high on trees where it can use air currents that dry up their roots after rain showers and where evapotranspiration rates are higher than in the canopy underneath. It grows at heights between 300 and 1.000 meters above sea level.

Between the heights of 700 to 1.000 meters it may be found with C. warcsewiczii. It is frequently found on Anacardium excelsium (caracoli), Ceiba pentandra (Ceiba ó Bonga) Ficus spp, Sterculia apelata (Camajón) and Cariocar amygdaliferum. When the forest has been cleared for pastures, there is a natural regrowth on old plantations of coffee trees and sometimes on trees that have a coarse bark.

Along with C. schröderae, C. aurea it shares the attribute of being one of the Cattleyas with the strongest and best aroma of all Cattleyas. It can be smelled long before the flower is actually seen. The plant prefers to grow on pieces of wood that are not decomposed. It requires light regimes between 70% to 80%. The greenhouse must always be humid but not too much. In all cases it requires good air circulation.

When it is planted on clay or plastic pots, make sure that the medium is coarse and that the pot has large holes to promote ventilation. Plants should be divided after they flower.

The flowering period is about two months after that of C. warcsewiczii, that is in the month of May. Plants obtained from seed have a much better development than wild collected ones. In the first months after seeding they like to be crowded to achieve better growth. It is very important to say that Cattleya aurea is on the brink of extinction. Wild collected plants simply should not be allowed to be sold. This because the chance of dying is very large and because there are almost no plants left in the wild to regenarate the original populations.

Cattleya Aurea

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Article by: thomas Toulemonde thomas@suamena.com 
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